Thornwood Veterinary Clinic is located on 23-acres off Buttrick Avenue in Cascade Township. The property was originally part of 80 acres homesteaded to Oliver Johnson on April 25th, 1836 by the United States government. It was operated as a dairy farm during the early 1900’s and converted to a dog boarding facility by the Buttrick family in the 1950’s.
History of the Practice
Dr. Gary Knapp began practicing veterinary medicine here in the late 1960’s and Thornwood Veterinary Clinic & Kennel was established September 21st, 1972 by Dr. Raymond R. and Marilyn K. Leali.
The Clinic is still owned and operated by the Leali family, with Dr. Leali seeing patients on a part time basis and Keith Leali (Dr. Leali’s son) managing the day to day operations.
Dr. Raymond R. Leali, DVM
President and Veterinarian
Dr. Leali is the original founder of Thornwood Veterinary Clinic, having opened the clinic in September of 1972. He has an honorable discharge from the USMC and is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he graduated Phi Zeta from the college of Veterinary Medicine in 1968. He began his first year in a mixed animal practice in southern Indiana. Dr. Leali then moved to northern Indiana where he spent the next 3 1/2 years in the equivalent of a small animal surgical residency. He enjoys many aspects of Veterinary Medicine but has special interests in small animal surgery, cardiology, orthopedics, neurology and dermatology.
Dr. Leali is part time at the clinic where you can find him about one week per month, April through October.
Dr. James M. Knopp, DVM
Dr. Knopp is a 1982 Graduate of Michigan State University School of Veterinary Medicine. He gained experience in many facets of veterinary practice during five years of relief work at over 30 practices in the West Michigan area. Prior to that, he worked for two years at the Animal Emergency Clinic. Most recently, he spent 18 years in private practice in the Middleville area. He joined his longtime colleague and friend, Dr. Leali, at Thornwood in July of 2008. Dr. Knopp currently resides in Byron Township with his fiancée and their Irish Setter, Luke. He enjoys a variety of hobbies including bicycling, writing, golfing, and yard work (he actually loves mowing lawns!).
Dr. Kirsten Begin, DVM
Dr. Begin is a 2009 graduate of Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. After graduation, she completed a one year rotating internship at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine followed by a one year surgical internship at Animal Specialty and Emergency Center in Los Angeles, CA. She also spent a year at Michigan State University completing a research fellowship with the soft tissue surgery department at the veterinary college. Currently Dr. Begin is a relief veterinarian, a position she enjoys because she gets to work at many different clinics across Michigan, all with great staff and fantastic clientele. She resides in Grand Rapids with her two cats Trouble and Linus, and her golden retriever Cedar.
Vice President and Operations Manager
Keith is the son of business founders, Dr. Raymond R. and Marilyn K. Leali. After 18 years living outside of Michigan, he is back at Thornwood since April 2007. Keith holds a BS Chemistry degree from Michigan State University, 1992, and an MBA from the University of Findlay, 2000. He grew up at Thornwood and worked in the kennels until High School graduation in 1987. Following college he spent 15-years working in R&D and Production Management with Cooper Tire Company. Keith has two children, Seth and Lainie, who work part time at Thornwood. His pets include a horse (Ms. Flashy Image) and Scottish Highland Cattle.
Samantha J. Minnema
Licensed Veterinary Technician
Samantha has been working in veterinary clinics for most of her life. She is a 2007 graduate of Baker College where she earned her Associates Degree in Applied Sciences. She has a special interest in exotic animal medicine (especially reptiles & big cats!), and after graduation she completed a three-month internship at Potter Park Zoo in Lansing. In the same year, she passed her National and State board examinations to become a Licensed Veterinary Technician. Roughly two years after receiving her license, Samantha joined the staff at Thornwood Veterinary Clinic to continue her career as our full time Veterinary Technician. Most importantly, she shares her home with four furry friends who she loves so much: Pocket, Rupert, Alan, and Monroe!
Marc Van Otteren
Receptionist / Veterinary Assistant / Kennel Staff
Marc is the “really tall guy” at Thornwood Veterinary Clinic. He joined Thornwood in August of 2000 while still attending Grand Rapids Christian High School. Marc has done everything at Thornwood from kennel staff, front desk, and general maintenance to his current position as veterinary assistant. Marc holds an Associates Degree from Grand Rapids Community College and is currently enrolled in the Radiology Technology program. His furry companions include a black lab named Roxy, a loveable mutt named Molly, and a cat named Oscar. In his free time Marc enjoys cycling (he rode coast to coast twice with Sea to Sea), hockey and many other outdoor activities.
Lori began working at Thornwood in 1996. She works in doggy daycare and as a receptionist, and also does dog training and obedience classes. She is a lifelong resident of Belding and resides there on her hobby farm with her three sons; Zackary, Joshua and Noah. Her four legged family consists of a German Shepard, Cash, a Border Collie, Sport, her cats, Mittens and Super Star, and too many horses to mention them all, but Breeze is her #1 horse. She even has a llama named Storm. In all of her spare time she enjoys riding horses and barrel racing and enjoying the great outdoors.
Receptionist / Veterinary Assistant / Kennel Staff
Prior to joining the Thornwood Family, Christi lived in Evergreen, CO, as owner and operator of a pet-sitting business and organic dog bakery. She has always been passionate about helping animals–her 1st job was at a small veterinary clinic, and she worked at an animal emergency clinic in Houston while attending college at Sam Houston State University. After moving to Colorado, she joined Veterinarians Without Borders and traveled to many impoverished areas after natural disasters (such as Hurricane Katrina), and even to several countries in South America to assist with spaying/neutering ferrel dogs. Christi now lives in Greenville and works in our doggie-daycare, occasionally assisting at the front desk. Her hobbies include “anything outdoors” and “anything competitive” from board-games to golf.
Michelle has worked in the pet industry for the last 15 years. In 2007, she began grooming, and her talent for it continues to grow. In her spare time, she loves to be with family, do crafts, and read. At home she enjoys taking care of her animal friends “Shelby,” a poodle mix, and her two cats “Sam” and “Tuffy.”